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Not every code cracked in film

I'm sure everyone who goes to see "The Da Vinci Code" will come out with one big question on their lips.

"What's up with Tom Hanks' hair?"

From reviews I've read, the Hanks' hair controversy is never adequately addressed in the movie. I have read the book, which I thought was a pretty good whodunit, but it wasn't mentioned there either. In author Dan Brown's defense, however, I don't think any writer would have foreseen that curious coiffure.

Well, maybe Leonardo da Vinci would have, but he would've written it backwards and probably in Latin, so I'd still be pretty much in the dark.

And while he was at it, he likely would've called the book and the movie "The Leonardo Code," since da Vinci's a location and not a name. But I guess that's just splitting hairs, too.

The thing that's really made Brown's book and movie lightning rods for criticism (besides the sloppy research, stereotypical characters and stiff prose) is the premise that Jesus didn't rise from the dead, but survived the crucifixion and boated off to Europe with his wife, Mary Magdalene, where they settled down and had kids. This has riled up people because, in addition to striking at the heart of some core beliefs of Christians, it implies that Jesus went and became a Frenchman.

While the theory's been around almost a couple thousand years now and debunked for a good portion of those years, it does surface every now and then in the plots of fictional books. Without that plot line, "The Da Vinci Code" doesn't work.

One thing fiction does is it usually requires you to accept for the purposes of reading the book or watching the movie that stuff that didn't happen happened and stuff that can't happen could.

Take "Star Trek." If viewers didn't accept that a spaceship could fly in the face of physics at Warp 9 or that a person could be disintegrated with a beam of light and reassembled somewhere else, then we would have never had a chance to see all those "Beam Me Up, Scotty" bumper stickers.

Nearly everyone had to read "Lord of the Flies" in school, which has a turning point when Piggy uses his eyeglasses to start a fire. The problem is Piggy is extremely nearsighted, which means his glasses had concave lenses that could not possibly have started a fire. But if you don't accept that they can, the story's over.

And let's face it. In real life, George Bailey would've been sent to the chain gang in a savings and loan scandal and Jefferson Smith would've been drummed out of the U.S. Senate for getting caught up in a Whitewater affair, which would have spoiled two perfectly good Jimmy Stewart movies.

Still, I guess there are some people who can't separate fact from fiction, which explains, among other things, most election night results and how those people who contact you by e-mail about claiming your Nigerian national lottery winnings stay in business. Luckily, an entire cottage industry based on refuting "The Da Vinci Code" has sprung up and could soon edge out "The Da Vinci Code" as the No. 1 U.S. manufacturing industry, so there's hope that some of the duped will get a clue eventually.

The reason I thought "Da Vinci" was a good whodunit, by the way, is I figured out most of the clues. Feeling quite the literary detective, I took on another book recommended to me by my friend Bill Strickland as being actual well-written literature - "Foucault's Pendulum" by Umberto Eco.

A long, complicated piece of fiction, it deals with similar themes - great mysteries, the Templars, the Illuminati, the rewriting of history and such.

Around page 200, I realized I really wasn't all that smart after all. At page 641, though, I felt pretty good about sticking with it.

It reminded me of something a former colleague told me. "I watch 'Wheel of Fortune' and I feel like I'm a freaking genius," he said. "Then I watch 'Jeopardy!' and I feel like a complete idiot." My recommendation: Watch "Jeopardy!" first, then "Wheel." You'll feel better about yourself.

Still, I am a little disappointed with "Da Vinci." Despite all the mysterious goings on tackled by the book/movie, it does not answer the truly big rumors that plague us, such as which will come first - "Da Vinci Code" the action figures, "Da Vinci Code the Game" for Xbox and PS2, or the Dan Brown Men's Collection featuring Harris tweeds and turtlenecks?

There are others. For instance, is it true that if you stand three feet away from the Mona Lisa and stare at one spot, you can see a 3D images of a school of happy dolphins performing stunts at Sea World?

Was the glass pyramid outside the Louvre really designed by I.M. Pei to include 673 panes of glass because secret members of the Knights Templar have invested in the manufacturer of Windex?

Did restoration work on some of Leonardo's most famous works reveal hidden little bespectacled men in red and white striped shirts and the anagram "Here's Dow Law"?

Is the albino assassin in "The Da Vinci Code" the same albino assassin who was stalking Goldie Hawn in the Chevy Chase comedy classic "Foul Play"?

Did Nostradamus really predict that Tom Hanks would become a major movie star in spite of his early work in "Bosom Buddies" and "Bachelor Party"?

And what about the burning controversy surrounding Leonardo's "The Last Supper" - namely, why did he choose to seat everyone on just one side of the table?

Anyone who doubts the grand master's influence on today's culture only has to turn on an episode of any sitcom that involves people sitting down for supper. They're all on one side of the table, facing the camera.

Just like Leonardo painted centuries ago.

Eerie, isn't it?

Jim Hendricks is editor of the Albany Herald, sister paper of the Gwinnett Daily Post. E-mail him at jim.hendricks@albanyherald.com.